United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lee McGowan, pro se, brings this suit against Prince
George's County, Maryland Police Officers Michael
Marriott, Jose Pina, Antonio Debarros, and Chad Schmick, and,
ostensibly, against the County itself,  alleging several
constitutional violations and tortious actions stemming from
his arrest on January 16, 2015. The Police Officers and
Prince George's County have filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment, which has been fully briefed. For the following
reasons, the Court GRANTS-IN-PART and DENIES-IN-PART the
Motion (ECF No. 65).
Factual and Procedural Background
facts, drawn from McGowan's Amended Complaint (ECF No.
21), his deposition as cited in Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 65), and McGowan's response to
the request for admissions (ECF No. 67), appear to be as
January 16, 2015, McGowan was employed as a Courier. ECF No.
65-3 (Ex. B (McGowan Deposition)) at 30. After a long day of
work, he and his friend Kakai Namasaka decided to visit a bar
in Hyattsville, Prince George's County, Maryland. ECF No.
21 ¶ 2; ECF No. 65-3 (Ex. C (Namasaka Deposition)) at
First, they drove together to a store, where Mr. Namasaka
bought a beer. Id.; ECF No. 67 at 3; ECF No. 65-3 at
47 (Ex. D (photograph of a single Bud Ice beer can found in
McGowan's car)). Upon re-entering McGowan's vehicle,
they drove to the bar. ECF No. 65-3 at 38, ECF No. 67 at 3.
Once they parked in the parking lot, they sat peacefully in
McGowan's car. ECF No. 21 ¶ 3.
they were sitting, parked, outside the bar, Namasaka was
drinking his beer. ECF No. 67 at 3. At that point two cars,
one a marked police car with its lights on and the other
presumably unmarked, approached McGowan's car from an
adjacent parking lot and blocked his vehicle in, preventing
its departure from the parking lot. ECF No. 21 at ¶ 4;
ECF No. 65-3 at 12.
both sides of the car, four plainclothes officers approached
McGowan's vehicle and told him and Namasaka to get out of
the car. ECF No. 21 at ¶¶ 4-6; see ECF No.
65-1 at 6; ECF No. 65-3 at 43. The plainclothes officer who
approached McGowan's side of the car and ordered him out
of the car was wearing a fleece jacket. Id. at 14.
As he was told to exit the vehicle, McGowan asked that
plainclothes officer whether he was a police officer.
Id. McGowan says the officer responded “yeah,
yeah, yeah, get out of the car.” ECF No. 65-3 at 14.
as McGowan started to get out of the car, the officers
grabbed his wrist and twisted it behind his back, telling him
that he was being arrested for resisting arrest. ECF No. 21
¶ 7; ECF No. 65-3 at 15. McGowan was pushed up against
his car with his left arm twisted high along his back, such
that his foot left the ground. He claims he was handcuffed
and struck on the back of his legs so that he fell.
Id. at 17-19; see also ECF No. 21 at
¶¶ 19-20. He says he remains injured to this day.
officers then searched McGowan's car and his person, in
the process seizing his driver's license. ECF No. 21
¶ 7. When the officers searched McGowan's car, they
supposedly found what they claimed appeared to be marijuana
or marijuana residue in a clear, foldable sandwich bag.
McGowan says there was no marijuana in the car. ECF No. 65-3 at
was thereafter arrested and taken to the District I jail
facility, where he was detained overnight. ECF No. 21 at
¶ 15. His car was not impounded; it remained in the
parking lot of the bar, where McGowan retrieved it the next
day, following his release. ECF No. 65-3 at 20, 22. McGowan
never received his driver's license back and was obliged
to obtain a duplicate made the next week. Id. at 24.
Since he was working as a courier, he was unable to work
until such time as he obtained a new license. Id.
was later charged in the District Court for Prince
George's County with disturbing the peace, resisting
arrest, and second degree assault. See ECF No. 21 at
¶ 15. The charges were later dropped without
January 15, 2016, McGowan filed the present action in the
Circuit Court for Prince George's County. On March 8,
2017, he filed a First Amended Complaint in that court
alleging assault and battery, unlawful arrest, detention and
confinement, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional
distress, and conversion, against individual Prince
George's County police officers and the Police
Department. Defendants removed the case to this Court on July
6, 2017, asserting as the basis for removal federal question
and supplemental jurisdiction.
attorney in the state court action was not a member of the
federal bar, and despite the Court's several attempts to
reach her, she never responded and never entered an
appearance in the case. Having been unable to arrange
substitute counsel, McGowan is proceeding pro se.
24, 2017, Officers Debarros, Marriott, Pina, and Schmick,
filed an Answer to the First Amended Complaint. On August 3,
2017, Prince George's County Police Department filed a
Motion to Dismiss, noting that it is well-settled Maryland
law that county police departments are agencies of their
respective counties and, as such, are not capable of suing or
being sued. See ECF No. 55 (Order granting Motion to Dismiss
September 5, 2017, the Court issued a Letter Order informing
McGowan that he was now deemed to be proceeding pro
se, requiring him to respond to the Police
Department's Motion to Dismiss. On September 20, 2017,
McGowan filed a letter “respectfully requesting this
case not be dismissed” and asking for the opportunity
to proceed pro se. ECF No. 47.
September 25, 2017, in response to McGowan's letter, the
Court issued a second Letter Order advising him to obtain
counsel or to let the Court know if he would like pro bono
counsel appointed. He filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel on
October 2, 2017. ECF No. 49. On November 20, 2017, John
Everett, Esquire, of ChasenBoscolo Injury Lawyers was
appointed to undertake a five-hour review of McGowan's
claims. On January 26, 2018, after reviewing Attorney
Everett's report, the Court sent McGowan a letter
indicating that this might be a case that an attorney would
be willing to take up on a contingency basis and gave him 60
days to try to obtain an attorney and directed that he inform
the Court that he was willing to do so.
same day, the Court issued a Memorandum Order granting the
Police Department's Motion to Dismiss without prejudice
and granting McGowan leave to file an amended complaint. The
Memorandum Order noted that he had 60 days to obtain an
attorney, and that until then, the case would be stayed.
never filed an Amended Complaint adding Prince George's
County as a Defendant or notifying the Court that he would
obtain an attorney. On April 11, 2018, the Court issued a
pro se Scheduling Order.
November 23, 2018, the County filed the present Motion for
Summary Judgment. McGowan responded on December 14, 2018. The
County filed no Reply.
Summary Judgment Standard
Rule 56(a), “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment
if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The alleged factual
dispute must be ...